Thursday, December 18, 2008

With a Last Name Like Mine, Well the Burger Better Be Good!

I'm sorry that I've been so light with my posts these days. Busy busy busy. And by the time I get around to thinking about writing something either a.) I've forgotten exactly what it was that I ate b.) I don't have any pictures or any motivation to really pull something together. Sadly, my lazy ass ways get in my way too much in my life. But anywhooo....

Well, what sort of things have I been eating lately? A lot of homemade meals for sure. With the economy as poor as it is, E and I spend our monies buying groceries that allow us to not only economize but eat well too. Since we're both food lovers, going out for meals can sometimes be costly endeavors. But cooking at home allows us to enjoy some lovely meals for a fraction of the price of dining out, plus we end up with really fantastic leftovers for lunch.

Most of the meals we've eaten have already been documented here...homemade pasta and bolognese, pork chops but this week E made a really nice chili in the crock pot.

While the chili sauce/broth didn't really thicken up as much as what I'm use to the favors were still very good. And what really brightened up the flavor was a pear and orange pepper salsa that E used to top the dish. With cheddar cheese and fresh corn bread crumbled into the bowl, this dish was delicious, comforting and filling! I could barely finish my one bowl of chili. Maybe E will share the salsa recipe with you, or maybe not. But it's a great idea. I like the kinda homey comfort food chili paired with the freshness of raw pears and peppers. Sounds odd but trust me, it was very good.

As well as we've been eating at home, we certainly have been missing our stepping out for meals. Or at least, I have on occasion! I enjoy the act of sharing a meal at a bar or a restaurant with friends. And so last night E and I met our friend J and A for dinner. We decided to meet at Eastern Standard because they had some business to conduct as well as wanted to stop in for a pre dinner cocktail. I arrived and was famished. Since I hadn't had anything to eat, I decided to hold off on a drink right away. E arrived shortly after and we went back and forth about where to go for a nice meal. While E and I had a lovely quick conversation with Garrett Harker (I really do adore that man) and A + J called over to Tommy, the head bartender of Craigie on Main, to see if they had room at the bar for four. A and J have been raving about the burger, and well, I'm always in search for a good one. It turned out Tommie had room for us and after a short cab ride over the river to Cambridge, we arrived at the new Craigie Street.

What use to be a medium sized mediocre Italian restaurant had been transformed into a lovely cozy bistro style dining room with an open kitchen complete with a "chefs table" of a counter top and bar stools at the entrance. I didn't get to see much of the dining room portion of Craigie because we beelined it over to the bar to the right of the entrance. A little, fairly dark lit space, it oozed the word "cozy". We had a bit of a wait but soon enough we got seats and were able to properly greet Tommy. A and J know Tommy well, but I only know him because of his work at Eastern Standard. He would often take care of me and E. And when he first started she called him Dennis the Menace (a term of affection). Tommy was a very good young bartender. A pro at his craft with an easy manner and a very charming smile...he's a really good guy.

We ordered four burgers off the bar menu (all of them medium rare expect for me. I tend to like my meat as rare as possible) and an order of pate to share as a starter.

The pate was lovely. It was served with small dollops of grainy mustard, minced gherkin pickle, minced shallot, salt and black peeper and a tiny salad of frisee and baby greens on the plate. We all got served good sized bread points (toasted and big!) so we could spread the pate on. I was a little cautious at first and just took a little bit in case I didn't like it. Too bad that wasn't the case! It was absolutely delicious. It was meaty, fatty and creamy. The texture was both smooth but not so smooth that you didn't think it was house made. If I could have toast always spread with this stuff, I'd probably never eat anything else ever. That pate was so good and it truly didn't need any of the other stuff on the plate. I guess the salad was there to break up the meaty fatty richness of the pate but I didn't eat any of it and didn't want it. I was fine with fat and meat pulverized and spread on my toast!

The burgers came soon after. And they were lovely to behold. The buns were so perky and the sea same seeds looked as though they had been lacquered so the bun appeared to be almost looked fake. The burger came with fried sweet potato threads and more of that frisee salad. Tommy said that the buns were made in house especially for the burgers.

Okay so first thoughts: I wasn't happy that traditional french fries weren't served with it. I also wasn't happy that we weren't offered ketchup or mustard. I also forgot to ask for bacon for my burger for which I'm sure I would have been stoned by the chef. Anyway, all that aside...

The burger was very seasoned with salt. I liked that but I could see how that might be off putting for some people. I mean, I like salt and have been known to add salt to potato chips at times so that should tell you something. The meat was very loosely packed almost to the point of falling about too easily for it to truly be a "burger". While I don't love a dense pack, I do like a burger that holds together well. The meat was almost fork tender in terms of texture. Apparently it was a mix of lamb, beef, marrow, fat. It had a very good meaty mouth feel and I liked the amount of fat they used. The taste was everything a burger should be but the texture of the patty threw me a bit. I was pretty happy with it and thought it was so delicious that I didn't need mustard or ketchup but like the pate we were served prior, at least the grainy mustard was on that plate so I'd like to offered those staples.

The fried sweet potato fries or threads were very good but not my favorite. They got very cold fast and I actually found them hard to eat. I gave most of mine to Elizabeth (who loved them!) who traded me the other half of her burger. The little salad was a nice touch and I enjoyed it as a way to break up the meatiness of eating one and a half burgers. At this point, I also order a regular coke so I could enjoy the sugary sweet carbonation against the backdrop of the burger. I get a little nostalgic when I eat burgers. It reminds me of Dad grilling burgers when I was young. And the drink of choice back then? Well, regular coke, of course!

Overall, I enjoyed the burger quite a bit. I felt that it was well made and actually worth the $19 price tag. Yes, I would go back for the burger and definitely rate it higher than the Radius burger hands down!

However, is it possibly the best burger I've ever eaten? No. Burgers serve all sorts of different purposes for me from the nostalgia of Dad grilling to my poor college student days at Mr and Mrs. Bartleys eating a triple "Clinton" burgers elbow to elbow next to my fellow starving student friend to a relax burger at brunch with friends just because I can! I think that Craigie's burger certainly has its place and is possibly one of the best in Boston for sure. But I also think it shows the caliber of Craigie (it was very thoughtfully made and well executed) and made me more hungry to try other things on their menu. I want to go back for the chef's whim menu and some of those Nova Scotia smelts (think they're better that New Castle, PA smelts?).

But what made the evening so great was being able to share the meal with E, J and A and Tommy too. I will definitely rate that evening at Craigie very highly for the company and the food. So everything combined, the evening rated a perfect 1o for sure!

And on closing, I will say I finally had a drink after my meal. Tommy mixed what I think was called a 50/50 with this beautiful Vermouth I think that was called Doylton. It was a perfect end to a lovely night out with friends and loved ones.

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